By Michael Gunther
As business leaders, we desire quick fixes and expect rapid responses from everyone around us. As such, we envisage employees who are able to implement rapidly with little direction or coaching. We might even send them to training programs with the anticipation that they will change their behavior just by attending them. We may also drive our teams to make complex changes while not truly understanding what is involved in achieving sustainable implementation with a new program, software or process.
As leaders, we may become frustrated when our team then underperforms, and we may think that the team is not totally committed to our vision, plan or company. I know I have been there myself. The needed changes seemed so clear in my mind while I saw potential in my team’s ability to achieve the identified goals. I felt like implementing a new software, process or system should be easy and didn’t understand why it was taking so long to execute. After numerous fits and starts on projects, I began to realize that it wasn’t the team’s issue. Instead, I caused the impediment to moving forward.
I have always been goal-driven in my life and at work; goals deemed impossible became challenges to work through. As an entrepreneur, these are great talents and characteristics to possess early on as you are building your business. However, these same behaviors begin to hinder you and your organization as the business grows. Achievement isn’t your sole responsibility anymore but that of your team.
Your role needs to be shifted from being a doer to understanding how to lead complex change within a growing and ever-changing organization. True leadership isn’t being able to handle all the tasks yourself but rather being able to achieve the results you want through others. Often, leaders become frustrated because they feel they could do it quicker themselves or they don’t trust their team to do the tasks correctly.
You are probably right – you could do it quicker than your team. But that knowledge will not allow you to leverage your team and shift your focus to strategy and growing the business. Not trusting your team to make the decisions or implement them properly is also your issue. People with the right intent will do their best to achieve your goals. They will make mistakes (as you have done in the past) and this is how they learn and grow. By allowing people the freedom to make decisions, you will learn to leverage yourself. I had a mentor many years ago state: “if you are not making mistakes, you probably aren’t making decisions” and therefore, ” you are not learning and growing.” It may cost you some time and money in the short run (like any learning), but it will build a strong foundation of trust and leverage for you and your team.
Keep in mind that the larger the organization, the slower it will take to make change. This is not always a bad thing, but there are just more stakeholders and systems that may be influenced or impacted by a change. Be patient and persistent while keeping your eye on the prize – small measured actions will lead to larger changes.
It is okay to drive your team to reach new levels of performance, but remember you need to elevate them so that you are not the main implementer. I realize you may want ‘quick fixes’ but the stronger success path is one of your team consistently implementing the steps, not you. It may be short-term pain for long-term gain.